Tom Russell has long felt a kinship with the American West, examining its people, land and history. On Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs, his third album in the cowboy/western genre, he explores that tradition and adds to it with a well-executed set of originals and covers.
“Tonight We Ride” mixes defiance and bravado in a rollicking song of a larger-than-life adventure that begins with Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus, New Mexico. Andrew Hardin’s guitar and Joel Guzman’s accordion give the song a cinematic feel that make it sound like part of the soundtrack for Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch.
“All This Way For The Short Ride”, a collaboration with cowboy poet Paul Zarzyski, details a rodeo rider’s demise. Russell’s somber vocal captures the spirit of an event where a thin line separates triumph and tragedy.
Russell covers two Bob Dylan songs. “Seven Curses” is a lesser-known tale of frontier justice with a twist. Russell imaginatively recasts “Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts” as a musical, sharing lead vocals with Eliza Gilkyson and Joe Ely and bringing a sense of theater to the Blood On The Tracks epic.
“The Ballad Of Edward Abbey” is a tribute to the ardent environmentalist who fought encroaching development in the west. It’s a song that will resonate in any region where commerce competes with nature. Russell captures Abbey’s fighting spirit with the lines, “If a man can’t piss in his own front yard/He’s living too close to town.”